Harmonisation in Victoria – What’s going on?
By Joanna Weekes
As a follow up to last Friday’s OH&S Bulletin titled, “Will all States harmonise?”, I wanted to specifically look at the situation that’s going on in Victoria.
The reason for this is that there is a lot of contention around whether or not Victoria will harmonise and whether or not it should. Many people have differing opinions on this matter and you will need to look at the information available to make up your own mind.
WorkSafe Victoria states on their website that, “The Victorian Government has confirmed its support to the principle of harmonisation subject to a satisfactory assessment of the impact and benefits to Victoria.”
Adding to that, the recent release of the Victorian Budget 2012-2013 has reinforced the Victorian Government’s hesitation to adopt the model WHS Act, stating:
“Victoria supports the principle of harmonisation but only if the goal is to harmonise is around best practice. Harmonisation based around the average, or worse, the lowest common denominator, risks reducing or stalling progress in public policy. For example, Victoria will not harmonise occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation according to the current model because many of the required changes would take Victoria backwards, imposing excessive and ultimately unjustified costs on Victorian businesses without a corresponding improvement in safety outcomes.”
This statement from the Victorian Government means that the WHS Act and Regulations will not be enacted in Victoria by 1 January 2013.
Words from our Co-Editors-in-Chief:
Michael Selinger of Holding Redlich Lawyers believes that it is inevitable that Victoria will move towards the uniform health and safety laws eventually. This is because the Victorian government has not ruled out harmonisation and it is difficult to envisage the whole of Australia operating under identical laws with Victoria being the only jurisdiction ‘holding out’ solely on the basis of the alleged costs to Victorian small businesses.
Andrew Douglas of m+k has the opinion that on face value, this seems an attempt by the Victorian Government to solicit extra funds to become part of the harmonised process. Every State and Territory besides Victoria has indicated they will introduce the law (with some small amendments). He believes it is inconceivable that Victoria won’t follow suit and the reasoning behind Victoria’s rejection is without merit.
It is for these reasons that we still encourage businesses in Victoria to learn about the new health and safety legislation and prepare for it.
In the meantime, the OH&S Handbook covers both existing individual State legislation as well as the model WHS Act in support of business across all jurisdictions.
And the other non-harmonised States…?
Tasmania will enact the model WHS Act on 1 January 2013.
South Australia and Western Australia have not confirmed a date for commencement of the model WHS Act.
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